Tennis players are prone to outbursts. John McEnroe invented the tantrum. Players since have really finessed it.
You might remember the time Serena Williams told a lineswoman she would “shove this f***ing ball down your f***ing throat” because she was called for a foot fault in the 2009 US Open semis.
Or the time in 2006 when Russian Dmitry Tursunov compared a chair umpire to Saddam Hussein because he wasn’t happy with the handling of his five-set loss to Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen.
“Just because he has been doing it for many years doesn’t mean he has been doing a good job, does it?” he said.
“Saddam Hussein has been in Iraq for a while but not too many people agreed with his point of view.”
Croatia’s Goran Ivanišević knew how to blow up. At one tournament match in England in 2000 he smashed every single racquet in his bag and had to forfeit.
Nick Kyrgios has been inventive with his meltdowns. He once left the court for a “bathroom” break but took two racquets with him. He returned moments later with two broken racquets.
Now in Melbourne, Australia’s home of sport, tennis stars from around the world are throwing tantrums as we speak. Why? Because the Victorian Government has deemed them a health risk to the public and locked them inside the CBD’s Grand Hyatt and Albert Park’s Pullman Hotel for 14 days.
There are now 72 players in isolation – unable to practise in the lead-up to next month’s now quite contentious Australian Open – after passengers on their flights to Australia tested negative to COVID-19 before boarding but then positive upon arrival.
“I was planning to play the tournament because they promised daily five-hour quarantine exemption where we could go practice, do a gym session and rehab,” 30-year-old Romanian Sorana Cîrstea wrote on Twitter.
“This was the deal before signing up to this … but the rules changed ‘overnight!’”
Russia’s Yulia Putintseva wrote: “What I don’t understand is that, why no one ever told us, if one person on board is positive the whole plane need to be isolated. I would think twice before coming here.”
French player Alizé Cornet called the decision to lock people down “insane”.
“We’ve been told that the plane would be separated by a section of 10 people and that if one person of your section was positive, then you had to isolate. Not that the whole plane had to.”
To her credit, she later deleted a tweet protesting conditions and apologised.
“After my last (deleted) tweet, I feel like I need to apologise to you Australian people,” she wrote.
“Your reaction to this tactless comment made me realise what you’ve been through last year and how much you suffered. I guess I feel a bit anxious about all this and I better have shut my mouth.”
The thing these grumbling tennis stars might quickly realise is that Victoria is the very last place one could expect sympathy for such a plight.
They love their tennis but do you know what they love more? The fact that for 12 days running not a single Victorian has tested positive to COVID-19.
Australia is one of the world’s rare pandemic success stories and Victoria, in particular, has experienced the very worst of what coronavirus running rampant in the community can do.
During its second wave that peaked in July and August last year, more than 800 people died. Funerals were cancelled and loved ones had to say goodbye through plexi-glass and via Zoom.
Businesses closed during one of the world’s harshest lockdowns and never reopened.
The mental cost of Premier Daniel Andrews’ decision to shut down completely will never be quantified, but it worked.
No other place on the planet has defeated a second wave that size and returned to life as normal. All one needs to do is look abroad for a reminder that once the virus is out, it is very rarely contained.
It stands to reason that as keen as Victorians are to sit inside Rod Laver Arena again and cheer on the world’s best athletes, many would prefer the tournament not go ahead at all if it means risking public health.
Especially as there are literally thousands of Victorians trapped overseas or interstate waiting to get home – some having spent months unable to get on a flight – while international talent catches chartered flights and complains about it.
World number one Novak Djokovic reportedly sent Australian Open organisers a list of demands that include cutting quarantine short for the players stuck inside their rooms.
COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar – a woman whose job it once was to ensure the state’s prisons ran smoothly – channelled all Victorians when she responded on Monday morning.
“It’s a firm no from me,” she said.
Former women’s world number one Victoria Azarenka tweeted this week: “If you have time to whine then you have time to find a solution.”
Videos showing players training in their rooms are proof that some – granted, not all – have taken the advice to heart.